Several weeks after Republicans and Democrats began high-level negotiations to slash federal spending by trillions of dollars -- the GOP's price for raising the national borrowing limit, and avoiding a catastrophic debt default -- Democrats finally peeped up. New tax revenues, of some kind, of some amount, would have to be part of the deal.
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The group, led by Vice President Joe Biden, had already identified nearly $2 trillion in cuts to discretionary and mandatory spending programs -- nearly enough to raise the debt limit through the end of 2012 and take a contentious issue off the table this election season.
That's when Democrats said, "your turn to give!" and put $400 billion in tax cuts on the table. Republicans balked. No tax hikes at all. Some Republicans have left the door open to closing certain indefensible loopholes. But party leaders have tried, for all intents and purposes, to take the tax code off the table. Cuts only.
The Democrats' response, from the rank and file up to President Obama, has been a political twofer. If Republicans are taking all taxes off the table, then they're playing reverse Robin Hood -- demanding trillions in cuts to social programs while refusing to budge on preferences to unfathomably wealthy special interests. It's class war, but in tactical sense. If they can make the GOP feel so uncomfortable that they agree to end special tax favors for the ultra-wealthy -- even if those favors don't ultimately cost that much money -- then maybe they can break the anti-tax firewall and encroach on $400 billion.
Here's what they're focusing on.